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Twenty-five years ago I had a baby.

I was the first within my friend-circle to have a child, and I had had a miserable, job-losing pregnancy (Yes, that’s a real thing that happens to lots of women, not just me), and the night before my baby was born I went out into our tiny, little galley kitchen around 3 am to whip up some green jello.

But there, amid the hushy gloom, I failed to see the dishwasher door left ajar, covering nearly the entire kitchen floor. So I crashed down upon it, my hands thwacking onto the ground, my huge belly squashed tight against the linoleum, my legs straight out behind me, straddling the dishwasher door. If you happened upon the scene, you might think I was planking in some bad-ass, nine-months’ pregnant sort of way.

Yet I was not planking, I merely wanted jello. As such I lay there like a flailing fish, shouting for help, awaiting a rescue that never came.  Eventually I shimmied forward in the most inelegant of ways, somehow pulling myself to standing, deep-breathing there at the kitchen sink.  And in the silver light of dawn, as the sun made yet another optimistic go of it, I silently downed the whole bowl full of globby, gelatinous goo, blithely unaware what the new day might bring.

Eighteen hours later, there lay Jacob.

For no reason that I could ever discern my baby cried non-stop for four months straight. He peeled the skin off hot dogs before he’d eat them. He left his shoes behind at the start of a multi-state car trip, spending the remaining days and weeks barefoot in the backseat, busily drawing comics for his brother’s and sisters’ perusal, witty little tales of two overweight dragons which pepper my dreams to this day.

Jacob’s all grown up now, no longer needing me to feed him jello or worry about his shoes. He’s out and about in the world, a fine, fiery-maned man, comfortable in heels or heelies, both, devouring Sushi, singing his heart out in karaoke bars, footing his own bills. 

Yet twenty-five years ago, I myself was a mere twenty-five year old new mom. One determined that her little boy, her first baby, would see and do everything the world had to offer, exactly as the parenting books said he should and could.

But Jacob wouldn’t crawl. His first word was ‘shit’. Still, I carried forth, determined to make jello in the dark come hell or high water. Patiently and persistently I showed him the ‘correct’ way to grow and thrive, meet all those sticky standards society arbitrarily adopts then sets to stone. For many months I crawled around the wooden floors of our house there in Massachusetts, maneuvering day and night on my hands and knees so that Jacob could see just how it was done.

Friends came to visit, audibly laughing as I inched along in front of them. “What on Earth?” they’d exclaim. “What are you doing?”

“I want him to crawl. He needs to crawl. He should be crawling by now. I’m showing him how!” I’d say all this from the floor, completely unaware of my own folly.

Can you see the callouses on my knees?

Truly, I have done a strange job of mothering. I have fallen down on the job most every day, starting on that very first morning, twenty-five years ago today.

Yet somehow, miraculously, Jacob towers over me, upright and aloft despite never crawling even a scooch.

Manual, schmanual!” I say.

“Shit!” he replies, smiling. 

Here’s to you, Jacob –

and another silvery morn, another hearty go at it, whatever the day may bring! 

Happy Birthday!